Bikes, Blues & BBQ Harley Vs. Indian

A photographer asked Sturgis motorcycle rally Grand Marshal Jessi Combs to pose for a photo standing next to her Harley-Davidson motorcycle, The Rapid City Journal reported on Aug. 12.

Combs, however, balked when she realized the photo would be taken in front of a semitrailer that carried the huge image of an Indian Motorcycle — suddenly the biggest competitor for cycle dominance at the Sturgis rally.

Courtesy Photo Michael Riha poses with his 2001 American Ironhorse Tejas, the predecessor to his current Harley Softail.

Combs’ reluctance to be seen in the same frame with a brand of motorcycle other than a Harley-Davidson underscores the renewed rivalry between two iconic American motorcycle brands.

We asked two Northwest Arkansas riders to compare and contrast their experiences.

Michael Riha

UA Theatre Department Chairman

Harley-Davidson

Q. When and where did you start riding a motorcycle?

A. I began riding as a teenager. My first bike was a Honda MB-5. It was a 50 CC motorcycle that was a blast to ride, and I got it brand new with money I saved from my paper route and my job at McDonald’s. It was tiny, but it was able to go 50 miles per hour (with a good tail wind!)

I loved the sense of adventure it provided me — that and a sense of isolation. I was able to go out on the county roads where there was little traffic (I lived in Wisconsin) and enjoy just being in the wind. Even at a young age it provided me with a great sense of freedom and time for self-reflection.

Q. How did you fit the stereotype of bikers in that place and time?

A. Well, as far as “stereotypes,” I don’t think I did. I was a skinny teenager when I began. Upon selling the bike when I went to college, I didn’t have a bike again until grad school. That was an old Kawasaki 350 that burned as much oil as it did gas. I loved it, though. It was mine and it, once again, provided me time to get away from my studies (theater design) and center my thoughts without being distracted. I sold it when I took the job here at [the University of] Arkansas. Seven years after being here I got the itch to get another bike. I stuck with a Honda and rode that for three years. I then upgraded to a custom chopper (American Ironhorse Tejas) that was truly the most amazing piece of machinery I’ve ever ridden. In 2008, I traded it in for my first Harley — a 2008 Softail — Crossbones that I still ride today. I’ve taken that bike on trips to Wisconsin to the 2008 110th Anniversary of Harley Davidson Party. I was able to see the Foo Fighters and Joan Jett. Both were fantastic concerts.

Q. How do you fit the stereotype now?

A. I don’t really believe there is a “stereotype.” If there is, I think I do fit it — middle-aged, financially stable, white collar, dude (or dudette!) with a passion for freedom and escape.

Q. Why do you choose a Harley?

I guess I don’t really know other than the fact that I love the look, sound and style of most Harley-Davidson bikes. I don’t think it is the ONLY bike I would ride, but it certainly is at the top of the list.

Q. What will you be doing during Bikes, Blues & BBQ?

A. Well, since it usually happens during one of our tech weeks — or a run of a show! — I am at work most of the time the rally is happening. One thing I absolutely will not miss are the turkey legs! That is a tradition and a must-have for me. The rest of the food, I can leave, but I have to get my turkey legs! I also do enjoy some of the blues acts that play in the beer garden. Oh, people watching! That has to be a favorite pastime as well. Some of the outfits are beyond description and should, in and of themselves, be considered works of art — or not.

__

Jim Hiland

U.S. Navy (Ret.)

Indian

Q. When and where did you start riding a motorcycle?

A. Immediately after high school, I joined the Navy. One of my first purchases was a Honda CB250. As a young sailor, I really enjoyed riding, and I always preferred being on two wheels versus four.

My introduction to riding lasted approximately four years. Along with my 250, I also rode larger displacement Hondas and I cared for and rode my uncle’s Kawasaki while he was serving in Vietnam.

Other interests overtook riding and that was pretty much it until I purchased my 2015 Indian Chieftain. While I had a brief experience with a BMW motorcycle (nice bike) I didn’t ride it much and sold it after a few years of owning it.

Q. How did you fit the stereotype of bikers in that place and time?

A. Since I wasn’t really a rider I didn’t have any rock-solid stereotypes of bikers. Over the years I’ve seen riders that seem a bit harsh and riders that that appeared to share similar interests and values as me. I think you would see this with any large “interest” group. In terms of a stereotype I would say is the main thought that comes to mind is that bikers have always seemed to be passionate about their sport.

Q. How do you fit the stereotype now?

A. It didn’t take long for me to see that motorcycling tends to be one of the great levelers in our society. When it comes to riding it doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a large company or a young person just starting out in life. When riders get together, it’s really the shared passion for the ride that matters.

While there are many fine motorcycles from many companies I can best speak for the stereotype I have formed for the typical Indian Motorcycle rider. The single word I would use to describe the stereotype of this rider is “family.” It may sound a bit like a cliche, but our local Indian motorcycle riders’ community really is a family. It starts with a dealership staff that’s friendly and supportive. Many of us go to the dealership to just hang out to talk about the latest news from Indian.

We have an active and growing Indian Motorcycle Riders Group, and members enjoy the fellowship that comes with group rides or other social activities. When I purchased my bike I didn’t realize that, over time, the friendships and fellowship that comes with being part of this community would be as important to me as the ride.

Q. Why do you choose an Indian?

A. It turns out the Indian brand was an ideal fit for me. I always liked the heritage and look of Indian Motorcycles. For some reason, Indian Motorcycles touched me in a way that other brands didn’t.

In 2014, Indian Motorcycle launched a whole new model lineup of bikes. When I saw that an Indian dealership popped up in Rogers, I couldn’t resist checking it out. A few steps into the dealership and I knew that I was going to leave with a bike.

Since I had been away from riding for over 30 years and had never been on a large cruiser, I was initially a bit apprehensive. While it’s a bit humorous at this point, I actually let the general manager of the dealership know that I wouldn’t feel comfortable purchasing the bike unless he delivered it to my house. I wanted to get comfortable riding it on my neighborhood streets.

I’m really glad he delivered that bike to me! In less than three years of owning my Chieftain I have logged almost 50,000 miles and have traveled through 25 states. Needless to say, this was a purchase that has changed the entire course of my life!

Q. What will you be doing during Bikes, Blues &BBQ?

A. As I said earlier, Heritage Indian is a great place to just hang out. Our Riders Group has planned a very nice ride on Thursday of the rally. Before and after that ride you may very well find me at Heritage Indian chatting with rally goers or members of my Indian motorcycle family about what else — our bikes and the next ride or social event!

— Becca Martin-Brown

bmartin@nwadg.com

NAN What’s Up on 09/22/2017

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Craig Ballantyne

I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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